Biennale 37,000 – Toyah Webb

Biennale 37,000

Principal actors:


Chorus of microscopic coccolithophorids

Chorus of Fungal Lesions

Guests of C., randomly selected from a studio audience, dressed in glass stones and the skins of small vertebrates

Donna Haraway


Act 1. caverne

(Lights down. A single white plinth stands downstage centre. The right-half of a large animal’s skull sits on top. A pool of pink LED light illuminates the eye-socket of the skull, then radiates outward from the centre. The light spreads upstage, illuminating small collections of dirt carefully arranged in zig-zags on the floor.

The chorus enters, calcified scales rattling in unison. They stop and lower their exoskeletons, to reveal smooth cellular bodies underneath. Each coccolithophorid slowly excretes dimethyl sulphide into the atmosphere. Guests of Cave slowly file in and stand downstage right.

The chorus of coccolithophorids divides [A/B], in one synchronised mitotic movement)

Chorus A: Welcome! Please be careful not to breathe too deeply

Chorus B: Hundreds of these images have been categorized!

Chorus A: And market value has been assessed!

(The chorus of Fungal Lesions enters from stage left. They move like contemporary dancers made entirely of fingers. Each Fungal Lesion finds a coccolithophorid to cling to, creating a lattice of black and white bio-matter. The doubled chorus of coccolithophorids fall silent. A video of a fire is projected on the rear wall of the stage)

C.: (offstage) Flames crawl on a loop and new morphology seeps out. Hardening into 32,000-year-old bone shards that will be catalogued and measured according to space.

(Each guest is given a piece of the alphabet sealed in plant resin by a silent coccolithophorid)

The letters X, B, N, K, A, Q in a smiling curve
C.: I feel the touch of a hand checking for air shifts. Checking for glacial scars in every reiteration of geology.

(The guests are invited to dust their faces with iron oxide)

Chorus A: They whisper

Chorus B: ‘This is Art’

Chorus A: ‘This has Meaning’

(The guests are then given novelty martini glasses. The plastic necks curls into the glass-base and shoot outward at a 120-degree angle, so the whole glass is a straw. Ice-clinks)

C.: A quadruped is painted on another wall like my own, pixels pre-dating cinema by 31,902 years.

(The Fungal Lesions detach themselves, and usher the guests into a half-circle around the plinth. Lights down)

Act 2. pont-d’arc

(The fire on the rear wall of the stage is replaced by the vacant square of the projector’s screen, and Donna Haraway is beamed in via Skype. The stage is bathed in green light, all the way from California. Haraway is wrapped in a cow-hide and wears brown plastic antlers)

Donna Haraway: Once there was a man and a sun-like woman who lived together in a large house. Every morning the woman would walk in the fields around the house, unaware that she stepped surreptitiously. However, one morning – after many mornings – she stopped and listened and heard: a roar on the other side of the field.

Upon hearing the sound the woman is

Decentred, written in a smiling curve
She realises that the only thing to do is to remove her Human-Shirt and collapse
a difference. So that night, the woman transforms.

They build a cardboard shell to become larger, and paint a white stripe down the centre of the face. They apply a thick coat of mascara and leave the house. It is difficult to move because the new body forces them to crawl on all fours. When they arrive at the field, they wait.

(A phallic column is lowered from the empty ceiling above the stage, upon which a woman’s charcoal legs and vulva blend into a bison’s head. The skype call with Donna Haraway ends, and the green light disappears)

ACT 3. le trou de baba

(Lights up, pink-hued. Baba enters from stage right, carrying a large ladder. He sets the ladder up and begins to climb, his ascension up the rungs keeping time with his speech. Baba wears: helmet and chinstrap, headlamp, elbow pads, boots with thick soles, harness, gloves, a pack with extra batteries, a safety rope. Each choral coccolithophorid spins wildly on the spot)

Baba: (climbing) This Virtual Cave Experience is an exact copy of the original. We assembled a team of artists, scientists, archaeologists, geologists. We shot 6,000 photos and laser scanned every fissure. The result is fabulously sci-fi

Chorus: beautiful replica, mind-blowing experience [written in wavy type]

Baba: (climbing) The walls are sculpted from resin and fibreglass, laid over a steel skeleton we suspended in the hangar

Chorus: captivating, a forgotten dream come true... [written in wavy type]

Baba: (climbing) If you look closely, you’ll notice ‘quartz’ deposits in the ‘stalagmites’ and ‘fossils’ in the ‘limestone’ floor

Chorus: well worth the time... [written in wavy type]

Baba: (climbing) Every geological mark has been repeated. Even the temperature has been designed to replicate the humidity of the original

Chorus: ...the artist's interplay of perspective and action... [written in wavy type]

Baba: (climbing) Overall, we wanted to create a setting that was soft and intimate, that truly captured history

Chorus: ...mute with stupefaction [written in wavy type]

Baba: (climbing) And the prices are cheap: €13 doesn’t seem much to time-travel to the dawn of civilisation!

(Baba reaches the top of the ladder and the guests of C. applaud. Lights down)



Categorized as ANNEXE

By Toyah Webb

is a writer and student at the University of Auckland. They currently live in Titirangi.